Lamentations 3:34
To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(34-36) To crush . . .—The triplet of verses forms one sentence dependent upon the final clause, “The Lord approveth not,” literally, doth not look on. By some critics the literal meaning is kept in the form of a question: Doth not the Lord look on this? The fact that the righteous judgment of God is against those who, unlike Him, cause wilful and needless suffering is another ground of hope to the sufferer. The three forms of evil specified are (1) the cruel treatment of prisoners of war, such as Jeremiah had witnessed daily at the hands of the Chaldeans; (2) the perversion of justice in a public tribunal acting in the name of God (Exodus 23:6); (3) every form even of private injustice.

Lamentations 3:34-36. To crush under his feet, &c. — In these verses certain acts of tyranny, malice, and injustice are specified, in the practice of which men are prone to indulge themselves one toward another, but which the divine goodness is far from countenancing or approving by any similar conduct. By the prisoners of the earth, or of the land, as the words may be properly rendered, Blaney thinks are meant the poor insolvent debtors, whom their creditors among the Jews, as well as in other nations, were empowered to cast into prison, and to oblige to work out their debts; a power too often exerted with great rigour and inhumanity: see Isaiah 58:3; Matthew 18:30; Matthew 18:34. To turn aside the right of a man — To prevent his obtaining, or to deprive him of, his just rights; before the face of the Most High — In the presence of the just and holy God, and under his all-seeing eye, who takes particular notice of all acts of injustice, and will severely punish them. The word עליון, here used, undoubtedly often means the most high God, and is so understood here, both by the LXX. and the Vulgate. Many commentators, however, prefer the marginal reading, a superior, understanding thereby a magistrate. And Blaney thinks it cannot here mean God, because, “though a person may be made to suffer greatly by having his judgment turned aside, that is, by being calumniated and misrepresented before an earthly superior, yet all such malicious attempts must fail and come to nothing where God is the judge, who cannot be deceived or imposed upon.” This is certainly true: but it does not appear that the prophet referred to this circumstance, but rather to the effrontery and daring wickedness of those who could be guilty of such injustice, when they knew they were before the omnipresent God, and that his eye was upon them, thus, as it were, bidding him defiance. To subvert a man in his cause — That is, to prevent his having justice done him, in a law-suit or controversy, by any undue interference; as by bearing or suborning false witness, or exerting any kind of influence in opposition to truth and right: the Lord approveth not — Hebrew, לא ראה, seeth not: that is, hates such conduct, and turns away his face from it with abhorrence and disgust. Thus we read, Habakkuk 1:13, Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil; and canst not look on iniquity. The general sense of the passage is, as God takes no pleasure in oppressing the poor and helpless, so neither will he suffer any men to escape unpunished that are guilty of such acts of injustice and cruelty, who never consider that all the wrongs they do are committed in the sight of the Supreme Judge of the world; and although for a time he thinks fit to prosper such oppressors, yet, in due time, he will call them to a severe account for their wickedness.3:21-36 Having stated his distress and temptation, the prophet shows how he was raised above it. Bad as things are, it is owing to the mercy of God that they are not worse. We should observe what makes for us, as well as what is against us. God's compassions fail not; of this we have fresh instances every morning. Portions on earth are perishing things, but God is a portion for ever. It is our duty, and will be our comfort and satisfaction, to hope and quietly to wait for the salvation of the Lord. Afflictions do and will work very much for good: many have found it good to bear this yoke in their youth; it has made many humble and serious, and has weaned them from the world, who otherwise would have been proud and unruly. If tribulation work patience, that patience will work experience, and that experience a hope that makes not ashamed. Due thoughts of the evil of sin, and of our own sinfulness, will convince us that it is of the Lord's mercies we are not consumed. If we cannot say with unwavering voice, The Lord is my portion; may we not say, I desire to have Him for my portion and salvation, and in his word do I hope? Happy shall we be, if we learn to receive affliction as laid upon us by the hand of God.Neither does God approve of wanton cruelty inflicted by one man on another. Three examples are given: the treatment of prisoners of war; the procuring an unjust sentence before a legal tribunal acting in the name of God (see Exodus 21:6); and the perversion of justice generally. 34-36. This triplet has an infinitive in the beginning of each verse, the governing finite verb being in the end of La 3:36, "the Lord approveth not," which is to be repeated in each verse. Jeremiah here anticipates and answers the objections which the Jews might start, that it was by His connivance they were "crushed under the feet" of those who "turned aside the right of a man." God approves (literally, "seeth," Hab 1:13; so "behold," "look on," that is, look on with approval) not of such unrighteous acts; and so the Jews may look for deliverance and the punishment of their foes. No text from Poole on this verse. To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth. These words, with what follow in Lamentations 3:35; either depend upon the preceding, and are to be connected with them, "he doth not afflict", &c. Lamentations 3:33; though he lays his hand on men, he do not crush them under his feet, or break them in pieces, and utterly destroy them, even such, and all such, as are bound in affliction and iron; or, in a spiritual sense, such as are prisoners to sin, Satan, and the law, as all men by nature are; he does not crush these to pieces, though they deserve it, at least not "all" of them; for he proclaims in the Gospel liberty to the captives, and says, by the power of his grace, to the prisoners, go forth, and encourages the prisoners of hope to turn to their strong hold: and also, though he afflicts, he does no injustice to them, does not turn aside their right, or subvert their cause, Job 8:3; or rather these depend upon, and are to be connected with, the last clause of Lamentations 3:36; "the Lord approveth not": as he does not do these things himself, he do not approve of them in others; that they should use captives cruelly, trample upon them like mire in the streets, or as the dust of their feet; particularly regard may be had to the Jews in Babylon, used ill by those that detained them; for though it was by the will of God they were carried captive, yet the Chaldeans exceeded due bounds in their usage of them, and added affliction to their affliction, which the Lord approved not of, but resented, Zechariah 1:15. To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
34–36. Three species of wrong-doing on the part of the victorious oppressor are here enumerated; (a) To treat prisoners with cruelty, (b) To give an unrighteous decision at law: for the judges as representing God were called by His name (e.g. Exodus 21:6 with mg.; see Psalm 82:1; Psalm 82:6), and hence the expression “before the face of the Most High,” (c) To defraud a man of his legal rights (which might be done without an actual trial). The sense of the whole will depend upon the view we take of the last words. They may be rendered either, (i) as a question, Doth not the Lord regard (such acts)? so Löhr, following Böttcher and Nöldeke, or (ii) as R.V. mg. seeth not. Hesitation as to rendering the Heb. verb thus might be met by the change of one consonant (raẓah = approve for ra’ah, see).Verses 34-39. - These two triads form a transition to the renewed complaints and appeals for help in the following verses. The first triad is probably an amplification of the statement that "the Lord doth not afflict willingly." This being the case, the injustice which darkens human life cannot be approved by him. Verse 34. - To crush, etc. With manifest reference to the cruelties of the Babylonian conquerors of the Jews. "My portion is Jahveh:" this is a reminiscence from Psalm 16:5; Psalm 73:26; Psalm 142:6; cf. Psalm 119:57, where the expression found here is repeated almost verbatim. The expression is based on Numbers 18:20, where the Lord says to Aaron, "I am thy portion and thine inheritance;" i.e., Jahveh will be to the tribe of Levi what the other tribes receive in their territorial possessions in Canaan; Levi shall have his possession and enjoyment in Jahveh. The last clause, "therefore will I hope," etc., is a repetition of what is in Lamentations 3:21, as if by way of refrain.

This hope cannot be frustrated, Lamentations 3:25. The fundamental idea of the section contained in Lamentations 3:25-33 is thus stated by Ngelsbach: "The Lord is well disposed towards the children of men under all circumstances; for even when He smites them, He seeks their highest interest: they ought so to conduct themselves in adversity, that it is possible for Him to carry out His designs." On Lamentations 3:25, cf. Psalm 34:9; Psalm 86:5; and on the general meaning, also Psalm 25:3; Psalm 69:7. If the Lord is kind to those who hope in Him, then it is good for man to wait patiently for His help in suffering. Such is the mode in which Lamentations 3:26 is attached to Lamentations 3:25. טוב, Lamentations 3:26 and Lamentations 3:27, followed by ל dat., means to be good for one, i.e., beneficial. Some expositors (Gesenius, Rosenmller, Maurer, Ngelsbach) take יחיל as a noun-form, substantive or adjective; דּוּמם is then also taken in the same way, and ו - ו as correlative: "it is good both to wait and be silent." But although there are analogous cases to support the view that יחיל is a noun-form, the constant employment of דּוּמם as an adverb quite prevents us from taking it as an adjective. Moreover, "to be silent for the help of the Lord," would be a strange expression, and we would rather expect "to be silent and wait for;" and finally, waiting and silence are so closely allied, that the disjunctive ו - ו et - et appears remarkable. We prefer, then, with Ewald (Gram. ֗235, a) and others, to take יחיל as a verbal form, and that, too, in spite of the i in the jussive form of the Hiphil for יחל, from חוּל, in the meaning of יחל, to wait, tarry. "It is good that he (man) should wait, and in silence too (i.e., without complaining), for the help of the Lord." On the thought presented here, cf. Psalm 38:7 and Isaiah 30:15. Hence it is also good for man to bear a yoke in youth (Lamentations 3:27), that he may exercise himself in calm waiting on the help of the Lord. In the present context the yoke is that of sufferings, and the time of youth is mentioned as the time of freshness and vigour, which render the bearing of burdens more easy. He who has learned in youth to bear sufferings, will not sink into despair should they come on him in old age. Instead of בּנעוּריו, Theodotion has ἐκ νεότητος αὐτοῦ, which is also the reading of the Aldine edition of the lxx; and some codices have מנּעוּריו. But this reading is evidently a correction, prompted by the thought that Jeremiah, who composed the Lamentations in his old age, had much suffering to endure from the time of his call to the prophetic office, in the earlier portion of his old age; nor is it much better than the inference of J. D. Michaelis, that Jeremiah composed this poem when a youth, on the occasion of King Josiah's death. - In Lamentations 3:28-30, the effect of experience by suffering is set forth, yet not in such a way that the verses are to be taken as still dependent on כּי in Lamentations 3:27 (Luther, Pareau, De Wette, Maurer, and Thenius): "that he should sit alone and be silent," etc. Such a combination is opposed to the independent character of each separate alphabetic strophe. Rather, the result of early experience in suffering and patience is developed in a cohortative form. The connection of thought is simply as follows: Since it is good for man that he should learn to endure suffering, let him sit still and bear it patiently, when God puts such a burden on him. Let him sit solitary, as becomes those in sorrow (see on Lamentations 1:1), and be silent, without murmuring (cf. Lamentations 3:26), when He lays a burden on him. There is no object to נטל expressly mentioned, but it is easily understood from the notion of the verb (if He lays anything on him), or from על in Lamentations 3:27 (if He lays a yoke on him). We are forbidden to consider the verbs as indicatives ("he sits alone and is silent;" Gerlach, Ngelsbach) by the apocopated form יתּן in Lamentations 3:29, Lamentations 3:30, which shows that ישׁב and ידּם are also cohortatives.

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